By John Mullen
Baldwin County voted to renew a controversial 1-mill tax to keep school funding at 12 mills of property taxes to fund the county system. Gulf Shores’ new school system will receive a per-student portion of this tax as well.
“This vote was about our efforts to restore confidence and this vote shows great confidence in Baldwin County Public Schools,” Superintendent Eddie Tyler said. “That is a direct result of our teachers and employees who showed over the past few years how committed we are to making Baldwin better, even through tough times. I am so proud of them.”
Voters overwhelmingly approved keeping the levy with more than 62 percent voting to extend the tax for 30 more years.
“I couldn’t be more humbled at the response from the taxpayers who trust us, not only with their money but with their children and grandchildren,” Tyler said.
Opponents of the renewal argued it was not a renewal because the vote was changed from needing a 60 percent margin for passage to a simple majority. Lou Campomenosi with the Common Sense Campaign said his group felt the tax was new because of that change.
Baldwin County school officials, who pledged not to spend money to campaign for the renewal like the Build Baldwin Now effort of a few years, sent out several emails to parents, members of the media and posted on social media to bolster their renewal stance.
“The school system/board has pledged not to campaign for a yes vote but we are reminding voters the 1-mill renewal measure is on the ballot amid the highly publicized Senate race, and we respect the voice of the voters, whatever they decide, trusting they’ll consider our whole body of work over the past two or three years,” Tyler said in an email to “all media” on Sunday.
On Dec. 6, Tyler sent out a plea to parents of Baldwin County students touting his and the board’s work during the past two years to relieve overcrowding and using tax dollars more wisely.
“Now, this is NOT a new tax,” Tyler wrote. “This is only a renewal of existing school taxes having been paid for nearly 100 years. It is very important that you help friends and family know that this is NOT a new tax.”
Daphne businessman Kevin Spriggs, a staunch opponent of the new taxes sought in the Build Baldwin Now campaign, said he liked the direction of the school board under Tyler. He did not campaign against the 1-mill renewal and Tyler noted in his email to parents how the tone of protest has changed.
“Of course, there is some opposition to this, but many of those who have been previously opposed are standing with us on this vote,” Tyler wrote to parents. “Either way, we cannot become complacent. We must educate people to know the difference between a new tax and a renewal of an already existing tax and encourage them to vote on Tuesday.”
The nationally and internationally watched U.S. Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones contributed to what is considered a huge voter turnout for a special election. Probate Judge Tim Russell said turnout was 35 percent in Baldwin County.